Ellis Island. Bees. Computers. Bats. What could these possibly have in common? They are the winning ideas proposed to MPCS administration for the inaugural year of the Innovation in Teaching Grant. Funds raised each year from the PTF auction are typically used for classroom needs and technology. However, this year a unique approach to the use of these funds was established. PTF contributed $10,500 toward “innovation grants.”
What are Innovation Grants?
Through this program, teachers were challenged to explore fresh concepts to enhance student learning. Specifically, the grant application states that: “Faculty will engage MPCS learners through research-based curriculum that innovatively supports the MPCS mission; and student learning that emerges will lead to changes in inspiration, motivation, collaboration, and experimentation.” The amount awarded varied for use defined in the innovation proposal and was based on the cost to implement his/her idea. The grant proposals were presented to all teaching faculty for consideration and four were chosen for the 2016-2017 school year.
How did the grants translate to the classroom?
The first of the recipients was indeed a collaboration between kindergarten, fifth, and twelfth grades. Mrs. Amy Schwan, instructor of the Honors Government class for high school seniors worked with Mrs. Robin Condra, fifth grade social studies teacher and Mrs. Susan Brown, kindergarten teacher, to develop learning objectives appropriate for each of the grade levels, yet work together, with a focus on citizenship, immigration, and American symbols. A traveling display of Ellis Island was the basis of the study and helped students learn about immigration and multiculturalism, even encouraging transparent conversations about diversity through a Christian lens. The older students worked with the younger ones to write and illustrate their own scrapbook storybook, having them printed and bound as a record of their study. Seniors buried a 2017 time capsule for the kindergarten students to unearth their senior year. Not only did the students in these three grade levels learn more about American history, but they also established mentor relationships and learned how to collaborate across grade levels.
Another fascinating study supported by the grant was born during a high school Environmental Science class. As students learned about the importance of honeybees to our food supply, yet are experiencing a dwindling population, an idea evolved to help the local environment by establishing a beehive on the MPCS campus. Mr. Justin Nelson helped the class explore information about bees and beehives and then they installed the first MPCS hive near Lake McDonald. Mr. Nelson collaborated with art teacher, Mrs. Jill Hooley, to teach students about folk art technique, which they then used to decorate the hive. Future plans involve learning how to extract honey from the hives and then marketing and distributing their product through the high school business and entrepreneurship class.
Mrs. Jennie Chandler collaborated with the fourth-grade teachers in proposing use of a set of iPad computers to facilitate interdisciplinary learning in their classes. They plan to incorporate whole group and small group activities combining math, science, social studies, and
language arts for limitless combinations of activities in exploration! Also, students in Mrs. LeAnn Curtis’ lower school ENCORE class became intrigued with a study of bats, so she proposed a plan for an expanded study of these fascinating mammals. Students not only used technology to research information, but they recorded video of live bats in their natural habitat and even built bat houses out of cedar wood to attract bats to their yards, helping with mosquito control.
Why is this such a great opportunity?
Allowing students to gather data in unconventional ways gives them more involvement in their learning choices. As Mr. Steve Bohlmann, Academic Dean noted, “choice drives engagement, curiosity, and inspiration.” These three ingredients make a successful learning experience in any teaching recipe, and the PTF innovation grants are seeing this through.
Pam Copeland serves as the Assitant to the Headmaster at Mount Paran Christian School.
MPCS is always evolving in innovative ways to teach our students. Click here to learn how academic excellence is achieved in a Christ-centered environment.